Thursday, October 25, 2018

Booknotes: Movements and Positions in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain

New Arrival:
Movements and Positions in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain: The Memoir of Colonel James T. Holmes, 52d Ohio Volunteer Infantry by James T. Holmes, edited by Garth D. Bishop, with intro. and annotations by Mark A. Smith (McFarland, 2018).

Written in 1915 and published for the first time in the pages of Movements and Positions in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain: The Memoir of Colonel James T. Holmes, 52d Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Col. Holmes's reminiscences of his regiment and brigade's participation in the 1864 battle "differs on key points from the accepted scholarship on troop movements and positions at Kennesaw, and contests the legitimacy of a battlefield monument." The account is fervently written, very detailed, and supported by numerous hand-drawn maps and unit diagrams.

Bishop, the writer's great-grandson and current custodian of the original document, serves as general editor for the volume and enlisted the expert help of historian Mark Smith in order to properly contextualize his ancestor's Civil War career and writing. To this end, Smith contributes a lengthy introduction, nearly fifty pages in length. In it, he provides essential background information regarding Holmes's Civil War service and his unit's exploits at Cheatham's Hill, as well as a wider view of the Kennesaw battle overall. Smith also discusses the history of the Union monument erected at the Confederate salient atop Cheatham's Hill, an Illinois-centric memorial that Holmes objected to on the grounds that it improperly slighted his own state (as well as Indiana). The marble monument inspired Holmes to write his own account of the fight at Cheatham's Hill and the resulting military memoir represents an attempt to correct the historical record as he saw it. Smith also extensively annotates the volume and includes a number of his own photographs.

In addition to the memoir, which is presented in two chapters, there is some appendix material drawn from Holmes's other writings and an index. The book looks like a very worthwhile read for those deeply interested in interpreting the Kennesaw Mountain battle.


  1. Drew: Even with all of the added filler material, at 163 pages it's about the length of a History Press soft cover at a substantially higher price. As I count it (based on the Amazon "look inside"), there are actually 73 pages of text containing Holmes's memoir. Much of the rest appears to be material which a reader who owns Hess's volume would already know (adding in the editor's photos). Coupled with the usual lack of a discount at Amazon, it seems unlikely that this will generate meaningful sales - certainly to someone like myself. Of course, I'l reserve final judgment until your usual in-depth review (assuming you're doing one).

    1. The memoir pages point out a historical account which differs greatly from previously written records, claiming that brave soldiers from Illinois never set foot on the specific ground that now supports a 25 foot concrete and bronze monument in their honor. Additionally, Holmes claims that he and his 52nd OVI regiment alone held the spot for six days. As a lawyer, Holmes presents a valid argument in an effort to correct history. An interesting and insightful read!


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